I came into the country with a nasty cough, the remnants of a nasty virus that seems to be going around. I spent most of my first week here just resting or snoozing, since a head/chest full of gunk and high altitude really do not go together very well. I started to feel human about the end of the week so I took the chance of traveling to Chilpancingo with my friends, Vanessa and Lili, to see other old friends at the Chilpancingo English congregation (ah finally I understand and am understood) and then further down the road for a party and overnight at Lili’s family’s home.
The food was fabulous, the entertainment (a drama about Moses and the 10 plagues of Egypt performed by the children) brought tears to my eyes.
After a few games, everyone danced and danced and ate and ate some more. A good time was had by all. When the night was over, everyone chipped in and cleaned up the compound, you never would have know that a party had been raging just moments before.
Did I say compound? Oh yes.
Lili’s family lives the way many do in these small towns. They own a chunk of property (perhaps a 1/4 acre or more) on which they build a house, plant some citrus, banana, and avocado trees and build a simple dwelling, used mostly for sleeping, since cooking, washing, and most other activities happen outdoors. As the family grows so does the house eventually including other houses for married sons.
Initially 3 rooms and a big porch running the length of the house (for a family of 5), Lili’s parents recently added new quarters for themselves with an indoor “kitchen” — a stove, counter for prep, and a table to eat at; water for washing dishes, etc is outside. It is like their own little efficiency apartment until the whole family shows up for a meal that is. The initial three rooms now provide a separate bedroom for Lili, when she comes home, and her sister, with a living room area between.
There is no running water in the house, as in many Mexican houses outside the cities. A washbasin (for dishes, clothing, and washing up) is located on the porch; the bathroom and shower are at the opposite end of the compound for sanitary purposes – keeping any smell or flies away from the living quarters (though both were so impeccably clean that I doubt any self respecting fly would come anywhere near. ) Though a little unusual by American standards, this is a delightfully simple way to live.
As tradition has it, they are building a new house for their son and his wife and eventual family (if there are many sons, each builds a house along the perimeter of the property). Again, this dwelling is used mostly for sleeping and some privacy. Outdoor cooking, laundry, bathing, and living space, including a big hammock under the trees, are communal. (Sorry I did not get any photos, my phone and only camera this trip died prematurely.)
This is an fine example of the importance of family in the Mexican culture. Father and son work together and everyone lives and helps each other, working in harmony. True family unity.
It was a real honor to be invited to the fiesta and to stay in Lili’s home, meet her family, and view old family photos. After this visit it is easy to see why Lili is such a delight to be around.